Morning, everyone. 🙂 Another spotlight for you while I get my reviews sorted, and this time I’m chuffed to include a giveaway with the spotlight! Check out the end of the post for details. 🙂
As a girl, K.M. always wished she’d suddenly come into magical powers or cross over into a Faerie circle. Although that has yet to happen, she instead lives vicariously through the characters she creates in writing fantasy and delving into the paranormal. When K.M. is not busy writing her next novel, she is the editor-in-chief of a blog covering the media industry, as well as an editor with Booktrope Publishing. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University and a bachelor’s degree in English-Lit from Nazareth College of Rochester. K.M. lives in Upstate New York’s Finger Lakes region with her husband and her extremely energetic little boy. Fractured Dream is her first novel.
Stay up to date with K.M. Randall by visiting http://www.kmrandallauthor.com/
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Here’s an excerpt to get you interested. 🙂
Excerpt from Fractured Dream, Chapter Thirty-Four
Big Bad’s Camp
He knew if he’d told Story he was going, she would have refused. So now here he was, belly down in the brush near the Wolves’ camp and covered in unicorn shit. It was the one animal the Wolves wouldn’t hunt, and so when Jess had told them all to cover themselves in it, he hadn’t complained. He knew once the Wolves picked up their scent, they were dead. Even Miss Red wouldn’t be able to take the entire clan down, which was guarding Ninian and Jemma now.
A movement in the tall grass alerted Nicholas, who cocked his head to the breeze and sniffed the air. His smell might not be as good as the Wolves’, but he knew what to look out for, having spent many a night sharing a campfire with them—when the only way to cover their animal stench was to let smoke from the burning wood seep into his clothes and skin.
Nicholas stiffened as the sound grew nearer. His hand went to the knife in his belt, but the smell told him it wasn’t Wolf. No, it smelled like . . .
“Hey, Wolf lover,” Jess hissed with a smirk the dimness of the night did nothing to cover. She had big lips and a wide, white smile that was almost as wolfish as the creatures she hunted.
“Hey,” he whispered back, grinding his teeth only for a second at the barb, instead focusing on the scene only twenty feet or so beyond. They had to be careful. If the breeze blew a certain way, the Wolves could snatch their whispered plans from the wind.
The Amazonian redhead had belly-crawled next to him, her red hair dragging in the dirt behind her. Nicholas had to admire how she didn’t bat a pretty eyelash at the filth of shit and grime. But then again, she was a Red Riding Hood, and despite her acerbic personality, he knew she was tough. The smirk was gone by the time she reached him, replaced by the expression of a plotting predator. She jerked her head to the camp below as a greeting and arched her brows in question.
This was the Wolves’ main camp, located near The Capital. Tents dotted the landscape and it looked like any military compound, except the number of Wolves was nowhere near what they had bargained for. No, it was much greater, here where Wolves slept like men. Nicholas could not comprehend it at all. There hadn’t been this many of them at the other camp, where they’d held Story only days before. But then again, he’d never actually gotten a chance to look around.
“There’s a lot of them,” Jess whispered seriously below the fortunate din of the breeze.
Nicholas nodded, but turned a devil-may-care grin on her. “Yeah, but they’re stupid,” he whispered as stealthily back.
“How do ya gather?” she asked.
“They’re Wolves, and yet they sleep in tents. Back under Nigel’s leadership, they slept and subsisted as Wolves, living and breathing their animal counterparts. Here they’re sitting ducks in slumber, waiting to be picked off by hunters looking for the nicest hide.”
Jess seemed to take his comment into regard and nodded seriously. The snideness was gone as the hunter had come out to play. “I see what you mean,” she murmured. “Nigel always was the smart one.”
“Yes, I’m sure it makes you proud he was your Wolf,” Nicholas said sarcastically, unable to help himself at the stab at her ego.
“Listen, I don’t like you for Story—or like you in general for that matter—but I do think you should know, since we’re going down there as allies, that the only thing that matters to me right this moment is seeing Ninian and Jemma out of there. And yes, it’s a turn-on that I offed the alpha to these sorry excuse for Wolves, but they’re all equally as vicious and equally as likely to kill our quarry and us. So this is my peace offering. Don’t mess up and I won’t tell Story horrible things about you.” She offered her hand with a feral smile.
“Oh, well, how could I say no to that?” Nicholas retorted, but then grinned lightly in the night and shook her hand. “And who knows, you might get your wish after this since I left without Story’s permission.”
Jess chuckled low in response, pointing one long finger toward a lone man who was checking the perimeters. “It’s now or never,” she said with a nod, and then as fast as he’d seen any Wolf ever move, Jess was on the man. She had her knife to his neck so tight that there was no way he would be able to howl an alert, or his jugular would be cut with the slightest motion. The most he might illicit would be a gurgle. Nicholas quickly joined her, checking around to make sure no other Wolves were in sight.
Staring into the glinting, yellow eyes of the Wolf, Nicholas smiled like he thought his father might smile right before he ordered someone to death or worse, torture. He knew he must look horrible, because the yellowed whites of the Wolf’s eyes rolled back.
“Raise an alert and I’ll make sure you die slowly. I’ve watched my father enough times to know the best way to kill a man gradually.” Nicholas was pretty sure that Jess’s presence alone would have been enough to make him talk, such had her reputation preceded her. This particular Big Bad was pretty scrawny, and he knew fear when he saw it. The Big Bad was quaking in his fur, his sneer trembled, and if he’d been in Wolf form, his hackles would have been up.
“Where are our friends?” he asked as Jess continued to hold the Wolf tightly.
Their captive laughed, bits of saliva dangling from his mouth. “I tell you, I die in pain; I don’t tell you, I die horribly,” he growled, spit spraying. “Just kill me.” Nicholas realized what he was about to do and started to warn Jess, but it was too late. The Big Bad threw himself into the knife at his neck, cutting his jugular. His blood gushed out onto the ground and he gurgled, thrashing in Jess’s arms. She pushed his body away disgustedly and glanced quickly at Nicholas. “We do not have much time. If they smell blood, it’s all over. For them and us.”
“You’re right, there’s not much time at all.”
Startled, Nicholas looked behind him to see a dark shape step out of the night. He blended in with the darkness, and only his green Wolf eyes glistened out of the night. Nicholas’s hand was on his weapon ready to go, but Jess remained calm.
“Darvish?” she asked comfortably.
The man turned to her and flashed sharp, white teeth, reminding Nicholas of what they could do when in Wolf form.
“Ah, you’ve heard of me,” he said. “And I know you, Red. But this is not the time for pleasantries. If you want your friends, they’re being kept in the tent closest to the middle. You’ll know it because it bears Nigel’s flag.”
Nicholas squinted against the glare of the torches lit around the camp, and sure enough, there it was.
“Why should we trust you?” Jess asked warily, her eyes narrowed and her stance defensive.
Nicholas too was wary of this Wolf. But for whatever reason, Story seemed to have some sort of trust in the man. She’d told them what had happened when she’d been captured. They really didn’t have any alternatives. They couldn’t pick off the Wolves one-by-one, there were too many. And eventually, the smell of blood would reach the Wolves and then they’d be dead.
“Because, Little Red, Story told you to, didn’t she? And really, I think you’re out of options. If the wind changes, the smell will bring them down on you so fast you won’t know what’s coming.”
“Jess, we have to trust him right now, we don’t have a choice.”
“You have no idea how much I would really like to kill you,” Jess told the Wolf. “It’s boiling my blood, but Nicholas is right. So how do you suggest we get in there? It’s completely guarded by a hoard of Wolves.” Nicholas could almost hear the arch of her brow.
“It’s strategically impossible,” Nicholas agreed shaking his head, dismay falling over him. They couldn’t leave Ninian and Jemma to the Wolves.
Darvish smiled. “It just so happens that a Daughter of the Will is staying with us right now, and she was nice enough to whip me up an Incognitos Silver Bell draught.”
“Don’t move,” a voice whispered from behind Darvish, and Nicholas saw Lance, face grimly set in the moonlight, nudge him with a long sword. “Unless you want to die.”
Kestrel suddenly appeared beside Jess. “We must go now; I’ll kill him.”
“No,” Nicholas whispered vehemently. “He’s on our side. Lay down your arms, Lance.”
The Pegasus prince hesitated, obviously torn by the command. But with a nod from Jess, the expert on all things Big Bad, he listened. Nicholas could tell it cost Jess to give a Big Bad her safety approval.
“Story told us to trust him,” Nicholas said, turning back to Darvish, who stepped away from Lance and eyed the Pegasus Prince and his queen with wariness.
“So Ninian gave you some potion, how will it help us?” Jess continued with the questioning.
Smiling now that a knife was no longer in his back, Darvish chuckled. “I will send out two from my ranks to different areas of the perimeter. Dispatch of them, but don’t kill them. And do not draw blood. Once you have, take a drop of their saliva and put one in each potion. Then drink it.”
Beside Nicholas, Jess made a gagging noise.
“You will take on their likeness. I will then send out two more men, who you must do the same to, except this time, do not drink. Save your vials and head back down into camp. One of you go into the tent and give Ninian and Jemma each a vial. If anyone asks why you’re going into the prisoners’ tent, tell them Darvish told you to see to their wounds. I’m the closest thing the pack has to a doctor. Say that the better kept they are, the more fight they’ll put up later on when Brink lets us have them.
“As soon as you can, get out of camp. Got it? Oh, and one more thing. Don’t get separated from each other or the potion will lose its power.”
They nodded in response and Jess jerked her head at Kestrel. “We’ll meet you by the hollowed tree we saw up the hill. If you hear the hunting howl, get out.”
Kestrel shook her head. “No way, Jess, my mother is in there, I should be going with you.”
“No,” Jess said with such authority, Nicholas could see why the Wolves were scared of her. She wasn’t afraid of much. “You may be a queen in your own right, and I understand it’s your mother, but this is my territory. I’m the Little Red Riding Hood here, and I’ve trained to kill these monsters my entire life. And Nicholas knows them—he has spent more time with them than even I have. We go. You stay here. Her tone brooked no argument, and Kestrel nodded her assent, although he could tell she wasn’t happy. Too many alpha females. It was amazing they all got on so well, Nicholas grimaced.
“Besides, you have a little boy that needs his mother, so stay alive another day, Kestrel.”
Although Kestrel still seemed unconvinced, Lance appeared to like the plan, relief smoothing his handsome features as he took her arm. “Let’s go,” he murmured.
The rest of them watched as the couple headed back into the brush. Darvish was unabashedly grinning in the darkness, his strange canine greens almost glowing as bright as Bliss’s eyes sometimes did.
“What are you smiling at?” Jess growled at him.
Darvish chuckled and shook his head. “Just you, Little Red.”
Jess’s face twisted into a snarl, but Darvish winked a gleaming Wolf eye and nodded. “They’ll be up soon. Be on the lookout.”
“Oh, I will,” Jess hissed. “I will.”
Chuckling, Darvish walked down the hill, leaving them to hide and wait. “Green, but he’s annoying,” Jess muttered as they crawled back into the brush, obscuring themselves from view. “I don’t know why Story wouldn’t let me just kill him.”
She was silent for a moment and then glanced at Nicholas. “You ready for this, Wolf lover?”
“Oh, I think you’ll find I don’t love them so much.”
The night grew silent after their final exchange, with only the sounds of an occasional animal moving or insect chirping, but even insects didn’t like to be too close to the Wolves. Jess’s breathing was imperceptible to the ear, but then he guessed it was all part of being a predator herself.
They were crouched down in the brush for only a few more minutes before they heard the footfalls and the two Big Bads stealthily making their way up the hill. From what Nicholas could hear, they were in man form, and for that he was thankful. They were much more lethal as Wolves, and if Nicholas and Jess could get the jump on them, they might be able to dispatch them before they had time to change form.
Nicholas could see now that Darvish had sent up some of the scrawnier Big Bads, and he started to wonder what the story was with this Big Bad Wolf. In his experience, Wolves didn’t help the good guys.
“I don’t smell nothing,” the skinnier of the two said in a canine-like whine.
The stockier shape grunted. “I’d rather be back at the tent where the witch is being kept. I think I’d like to get a little taste of her.”
They were drawing closer when the shorter one sniffed the air. “Hey, you smell that?”
Lanky stopped and took a big long sniff in as well. “Yah, it smells like . . . ”
Jess glanced at Nicholas and in fluid motion, she was up on her feet, stepping behind the shorter one as if in a dance. Her hands sailed through the night like white hands of judgment as she grasped his neck and snapped it.
“Me,” she finished his sentence with a scary smile.
Lanky’s eyes rolled back as if he sensed a predator stronger than he, but Nicholas was on him before he could react. Taking the blunt end of his dagger, Nicholas conked him on the head hard enough to knock him out.
“Get his saliva,” Jess commanded.
Nicholas put a vial near his Wolf’s mouth as Jess did the same with hers, and he was able to collect a drop as the Wolf drooled in his unconscious state. Shaking the mixture, Nicholas turned back to Jess.
“Darvish said not to kill them,” he hissed.
“No,” Jess said with a smug smile before she downed her drink, her face twisting in distaste before she looked back at him. “He just said ‘don’t draw blood.’”
“And he also said ‘don’t kill them.’” He clenched his jaw, wanting to shake her.
She shrugged carelessly. “Ooops. Oh well, too late now.” She laughed to herself. “We already killed one, what’s one more?”
Nicholas felt himself begin to change, a tingling sensation like he’d felt when Ninian had given them the Incognitos Silver Bell petals before. “Don’t kill the next ones,” he retorted as they hid once more after dragging the bodies out of sight. Nicholas only hoped the Wolves wouldn’t catch the scent of death before they could get the jump on them.
Jess said nothing as they waited, which was a little bit longer than the previous time. But soon enough came two more. These ones were also not very big, but they seemed less stupid. That was until he noticed one was walking with a bit of a sloppy swagger, lacking the grace that made Wolves such great hunters.
As they got closer, Nicholas smelled a whiff of alcohol and grinned. The Wolves might be bigger, but Darvish had sent them up a drunk.
“Don’t know why I hash to come, I’s jest fine where I was,” whined the inebriated Wolf in a half-slur.
The other guy, with an average build, shrugged. He didn’t seem overly concerned about being backed up by a drunk Wolf, and he looked as if he was about to turn back around before they even got close enough. But he suddenly stopped and sniffed, a slow growl sounding in the back of his throat.
“Wa’s ish it?” the other one drawled, looking around with hooded yellow eyes in the night, his movements slow and sluggish.
Jess jerked her head at the sober one, staking her intent to take him. Before Nicholas could protest, she was out of the brush and on him, but this Wolf was more alert than their previous victims and he blocked her assault, sending her dagger flying into the grass. Nicholas took the moment to grab the drunk Wolf, who only seemed to comprehend what was happening as Nicholas brought his sword down and easily dispatched him with a thud to his skull.
He turned, hoping to find the other on the ground as well, but Jess was struggling. This Wolf was stronger than he looked and was blocking all her attacks, stopping her roundhouse kick in mid-air with his massive hands. The Big Bad leered at her surprise and sent her flying through the air. Nicholas looked for an in, feeling the urgency to quell the disturbance on the hill before they were noticed. He flew toward the Wolf. His opponent reared up, and Nicholas felt the impact of the Wolf’s feet to his chest, his breath gasped out of him as he lost it and went flying to the ground. His chest heaved as he tried to suck in air, but all he could hear was the sound of his own wheezing. He was too late—the Big Bad was morphing into beast form, and once he changed, there was no way Nicholas would be able to defeat him. The Wolf would send out a howl and the entire horde would be after them.
Helpless, Nicholas glanced over to Jess, who was staring at him as if she’d never seen a Wolf before. All he could manage was a gasp and a wild gesture. “Wolf—you kill . . . Birthright.”
She appeared confused, her skin tight against her face in the pale moonlight, but he saw her steel eyes gather storm. In the moments a Wolf changes, there is a lapse where he is vulnerable, and she took the opportunity. Rising to her feet in one swift leap, she released her sword. It went singing through the air with a whisper of steel on the breeze, the razor edge sweeping the Wolf’s head from his neck just as the change completed. So much for not drawing blood, Nicholas winced.
“Dammit Jess, more death, and now blood?” He got up from where he’d fallen, his breath collected, and he quickly gathered the saliva needed from the decapitated head.
“We’ll have to bury him,” she whispered calmly, her confidence seemingly restored. “It will help mask the scent.”
Nicholas didn’t argue. It was a good idea, but they’d have to work fast or else all their trouble would be for nothing. Without speaking, the two gathered the head and the body, dragging them as far away as they dared. Then, using sharp rocks, they proceeded to dig as much as they could. They soon realized they weren’t going to get very far without a shovel, but figured they could gather as much leaves and grass as possible, cover the body, and hide the scent that way.
When they were done, the shape in the darkness merely looked like a mound of grass and branches, camouflaged as it was against the tall brush.
“Well?” Nicholas turned toward her as she sniffed the air. One of her gifts as a Riding Hood was her ability to smell as well as a Wolf.
“It’s better. Plus, I’m looking for the smell. It will work well enough that it won’t alert anyone in camp. But if anyone comes out this way, they’ll smell it for sure. We’d best get going.”
Nicholas nodded. “Don’t leave my side. If we’re separated we’ll change back.”
“I don’t remember Darvish saying that,” she whispered back.
“Yeah, just like you don’t remember him saying not to kill anyone?”
Jess was silent as they started down the hill, and Nicholas felt bad for a moment, but he was too busy concentrating on walking like a stealthy Wolf.
As they entered the compound, Nicholas made himself remember what it was like to travel with the Wolves. A feeling of calm washed over him as he pretended he was just a boy and they would never dare touch him.
Jess looked every bit the role, sauntering past other Wolves with a sneer and a nod here and there. Plus, she had already been gifted with their preternatural grace. Nicholas was assaulted by the smell of Wolf―he forgot how strong it could be. It was musky, with the faintest hint of sulfur. They were everywhere, laughing and talking. Nicholas glanced to his side as they walked past a ring of men shouting. A small crowd was making wagers over two Big Bads in Wolf form, who lunged and snarled at one another. Wolf fights.
“Hey Barton!” Nicholas was focused on the tent ahead of them, the one flying Nigel’s flag only ten feet in the distance. It was simple, purple for the color of Wolf royalty. As alpha, Nigel had taken on the role of leadership to his pack, but he had also somehow grown his pack to hundreds, which was pretty much unheard of.
“Barton!” The shout came again and Jess elbowed Nicholas, who turned toward the voice.
“Yeah?” he called back, doing his best to impersonate the whininess of the real Barton’s voice.
“You want to wager tonight?” called the man. Nicholas had never seen him before, but he could see there was viciousness in his Wolf eyes. He was also tall, maybe six-foot-eleven, the tallest Nicholas had ever seen. He imagined with an inward shudder that he must be massive when in Wolf form.
“Nah, not tonight, I’ve got me some drinking to do.”
The big man laughed. “Next time then,” he said with a slow growl and turned back to the crowd. Nicholas and Jess shared a nonchalant glance, but he didn’t need her to tell him. That was the new alpha in town, and he looked scary. And unfortunately, he was awfully close to the tent they needed to get to.
Sounds good, right? 🙂 Here’s what you need to do to enter for a chance of winning one of three eBook-copies of Fractured Dream:
Comment on this post by stating you’d like to enter, and then tweet -yep, that’s right, TWEET- the following: “I entered the #FracturedDream by @KM_Randall giveaway on @DavesFandSFW’s blog” or something similar. The hashtag should be included, as well as the author’s twitter handle and my own. 🙂 The giveaway is open to every single person on the planet, so get those entries in!
The giveaway will run from today until the Friday the 27th of June (3 weeks to enter for 3 eBooks), and I’ll announce the winners here on Monday the 30th. 🙂
Got all that? Good stuff!